NBA Trade Rumors: Chicago Bulls Must Keep Luol Deng Despite Financial Concerns
With the guillotine that is the luxury tax hanging over their heads, the Bulls are considering trading Deng for a high first-round pick, according to Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald. While this move would give them more financial flexibility, it would be foolish to sacrifice the All-Star forward just to save some cash.
Derrick Rose is the far more recognized player, but it's Deng's versatility that elevates the Bulls from a playoff team to championship contenders when they're at full strength. And although both players will miss a portion of next season due to injuries, there's no reason to dump Deng and surrender all hope for the short term.
The Bulls were widely regarded as one of the top two teams in the East this season, and with their core intact, they can make a legitimate title run in 2012-13. Sure, Rose's injury is devastating, but if he can return at the shorter end of that eight- to 12-month timetable, he could still be effective in the postseason.
Besides, it's not like the Eastern Conference is loaded at the top. The Miami Heat are on the verge of starting a dynasty, but as the Bulls obviously found out this year, one injury can kill your title hopes.
The Celtics will likely look much different than the team that was one game away from this year's NBA Finals. The Pacers don't have the experience or a star player to lead them. The Knicks still have to figure out that whole "our roster doesn't make sense as currently constructed" thing. And the Magic, well, let's just say they're in no condition to return to the Finals.
Should something unexpected happen to Miami, the Bulls would be the best and most complete team in the East. Assuming, of course, that they don't ditch the man who just led the NBA in minutes, scored at a decent rate, finished fifth among small forwards in rebounding and played lock-down defense against every team's best perimeter player.
With the future in mind, I realize that it's tempting to trade Deng. However, there are ways to save money and still compete for the title.
If they swallow the luxury tax this season, the Bulls can amnesty Carlos Boozer—the more expensive, but less valuable player—at the end of the year. He is easily replaceable (Taj Gibson is better right now, anyway), and Chicago wouldn't have to sacrifice Deng, who is younger, more talented and unafraid of the big stage.
It's not an easy decision, and it certainly won't be appealing to Jerry Reinsdorf and his accountants. However, if we're looking purely at the basketball aspect of this issue, the Bulls simply can't afford to get rid of Deng.
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